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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER             63
of Persia, and Aristophanes of Greece. Athens would be infinitely poorer had there been no Aristophanes, and the Chinese intellectual heritage would be infinitely less rich had there been no Chuangtse.
Since Chuangtse lived and wrote, however, all Chinese politicians and bandits have become great humorists, because they have been imbued, directly or indirectly, with the Chuang-tsean view of life. Laotse had laughed before him, a thin, shrill yet cataclysmic laughter. He must have been a bachelor all his life, or he could not have laughed so roguishly. Anyway there is no record that he ever married or had any progeny. The last coughs of Laotse's laughter were caught up by Chuangtse and he, being a younger man, had a richer voice, and the ring of his laughter has reverberated throughout the ages. We still cannot resist a chance to laugh, yet sometimes I feel we are carrying the joke too far, and laugh a little out of season.
The abysmal ignorance of the foreigner about China and the Chinese cannot be more impressive than when he asks the question: Do the Chinese have a sense of humour? It is really as surprising as if an Arab caravan were to ask: Are there sands in the Sahara desert? It is strange, however, how little a person may see in a country. Theoretically, at least, the Chinese people should have humour, for humour is born of realism; and the Chinese are an unusually realistic people. Humour is born of common sense, and the Chinese have an overdose of common sense. Humour, especially Asiatic humour, is the product of contentment and leisure, and the Chinese have contentment and leisure to a supreme degree. A humorist is often a defeatist, and delights in recounting his own failures and embarrassments, and the Chinese are often sane, cool-minded defeatists. Humour often takes a tolerant view of vice and evil and instead of condemning them, laughs at them, and the Chinese have always been characterized by the capacity to tolerate evil. Toleration has, then, a good and a bad side, and the Chinese have both of them. If the characteristics of the Chinese race we have discussed aboveŚcommon sense, toleration, contentment and old rogueryŚare true, then humour is inevitable in China.